What can MLB standings tell us?

2020 MLB Standings Fangraphs

The prior year MLB standings carry prognostication power when looking into a team’s future performance. Their overall won/loss record tells a story, however, that story can be misleading or even tell an untruth or two. Our goal must be to level set the “true” value of a team. We build from a data opinion which leads to better accuracy of worth. Knowing the team’s worth, we use it as a starting point in developing an opinion for the approaching season.

Fanatics

There are three columns listed above. The first is the actual wins and losses. The second is the Pythagorean theory, and the third is the BaseRuns. Each variable has a specific purpose. Column one (actual performance) represents what happened in terms of wins, losses, run differential, runs per game, and runs against per game. Column two (PythagenPat) is a model of what should have happened based on how many runs were scored and allowed, then converts into wins and losses. This model is built around scoring. Column three (BaseRuns) indicates what should have happened based on offensive and defensive team performance. Using this column, we need to think about base runners, advancement of base runners, outs, and automatic runs (HRs). This model incorporates performance, hence should be most accurate gauge of true worth.

The actual record is the baseline. Let’s look at SD Padres 37-23. Column two indicates a -1. This reflects their actual wins were one less than it should have been based on runs scored and runs allowed, thus they should have had a record of 38-22. In the Padres case, column three shows the same result as column two. There is not much variance between the actual result with the result of what should have happened. Thus, SD level sets with like they ended 2020.

Now let’s look at the NY Mets. Their actual record was 26-34. Column two indicates a -2. This reflects their actual records was two less wins than it should have been, thus their record should have been 28-32. Column three indicates a -5 indicating their performance should have earned them 5 more wins and a record of 31-29. A record of 26-34 (actual) is a winning percentage of .433. A record of 31-29 is a winning percentage of .520. The Mets go from a below average team to an above average team without playing a game.

Why is this significant? Let’s compare the Mets and the Marlins. The Braves won the division and the Marlins finished second 31-29. The Mets and Nationals finished tied for the bottom behind the Phillies. Shuffling the view to the third column, the Marlins were +7. They won 7 games where their performance indicated they should not have, thus their new record would be 24-36. Doing the same for the rest of the division would put the Mets finishing in second not last. The Mets would likely have taken the Marlins spot in the playoffs too. The Marlins should have finished in last place! The importance of this comes into view when level setting for 2021. We must view the Mets as an above average team or even a playoff team coming into 2021, then look at their off-season player movement, and regression and progression analysis. The Marlins need to be viewed as a bottom feeder first, then apply the rest of the analysis. The Marlins fit the bill for the “untruth” being told about the quality of their team. The Mets also fit the bill but the other direction. It will make the opinion of the teams more accurate for their outcome projections of 2021.

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